Gary's story: "The cost-of-living crisis has created an environment full of challenges"

Gary | July 2023 | 7 minutes

Gary used alcohol to try and cope with his financial anxieties. Here, he tells us how he was able to overcome alcohol dependency and improve his mental health.

Financial anxiety and fruitless searches for employment led me towards the downward spiral of addiction.

I have recently come to understand that my addiction* has a significant mental health component. Financial anxiety, fruitless searches for appealing and meaningful employment and having my best years behind me led me towards potential relapse and the downward spiral of addiction. The edge of this hole loomed much closer in times of stress and my receptors generally rolled out the welcome mat.

While anyone struggling with alcohol and mental health problems will have a unique perspective, we all share some common features -– triggers. How we respond to them and how we ultimately deal or don’t deal with the consequences will be different for everyone. The cost-of-living crisis has created an environment full of challenges that have become triggers for so many.

Learning to recognise these triggers and the start of a relapse spiral is key to my health.

For me, this can look like rising anxiety, a feeling of helplessness about the future, drinking due to boredom and a lack of purpose, poor sleeping and diet, isolation, medication that doesn’t work anymore and the start of a spiral that takes over my daily life and prevents me from functioning outside of my bubble.

Learning to recognise these triggers and the start of a relapse spiral is key to my health - avoiding personal and financial administration, sitting on bills, avoiding making calls to fix relatively simple issues, relying on take-away food, a lack of interest in or energy for personal care are all symptoms I see ganging up on me at times.

The current economic climate and state of society makes it easy for me to turn my back on normal life and be sucked further into the bubble. Getting up while it is still morning and trying to delay the start of my drinking is a challenge that generally defeats me. So, what chance do dependent drinkers have of turning this situation around and taking on the challenges of employment, social contact and accessing help with the world we face today?

I believe that it is much more difficult to tackle these issues on my own.

I believe that it is much more difficult to tackle these issues on my own. Another set of eyes, opinions and shared experience helps me to get a plan in place to stop the spiral. It’s a classic case of “how do you eat an elephant?” (Answer - one piece at a time).

Keeping an alcohol diary of units consumed, identifying those things that improve mood and make you feel better –- fresh air, gardening, social contact, a medication strategy, or whatever works for you – are all concrete steps towards halting the decline and getting into a mindset that gives a fighting chance of re-engaging with the world. I am lucky to have a strong relationship with my support worker at Alcohol and Drugs Action in Aberdeen who is my go-to person when I feel the decline coming. It’s no exaggeration to say that this organisation has saved my life on more than one occasion. There is bound to be an organisation near you that can help so contact them and accept the fact that you probably can’t do this on your own.

The cost-of-living crisis may well make it harder to improve our personal financial situation or find rewarding and secure employment but achieving a period of recovery with good mood, anxiety under control, better sleeping and eating is just as rewarding and makes those other things possible rather than impossible. We should focus on controlling what is in our power and not allow alcohol harm to be the most serious cost-of-living we must bear.

*Editor's note: You can read more about the language used to talk about drinking problems, including the word 'addiction' here.

Lots of us struggle with alcohol at some point in our lives and need support to turn things around. Find out more about getting support.

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